Syracuse Orange: Launch of new NIL collective ‘huge deal’ for SU Athletics

Syracuse Orange (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Syracuse Orange (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

The launch of a commercial NIL collective to support all Syracuse Orange sports is a “huge deal” and was a “necessary next step” as the ‘Cuse looks to remain competitive in the name, image and likeness space, a top official with SU Athletics tells me.

Torrey Ball, SU’s deputy athletics director for business development and just a really nice guy, was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with me on Tuesday, the same day that Orange United commenced operations in Central New York.

Orange United, which is being managed by the Atlanta-based Student Athlete NIL (“SANIL”), has signed a deal with multi-media rights company LEARFIELD to be an official partner of, and the preferred collective for, SU Athletics, SANIL founder Jason Belzer told me in a recent phone interview.

According to Belzer, Orange United has a goal of raising $6 million to $9 million annually for NIL deals that will support Syracuse Orange student-athletes in every ‘Cuse sport.

A new commercial NIL collective supporting all Syracuse Orange sports is critically important.

While Ball didn’t want to comment on those specific dollar amounts, he says that the launch of Orange United “takes us in the right direction” and “puts us in a position to support our student-athletes at the highest level.”

The new collective “gives us a leg up from where we were,” Ball says. He acknowledged that it will take time for Orange United to get off the ground with its various efforts, and those include getting SU fans to become members of the collective, establishing relationships in the business community, and securing donations from wealthy individuals.

That being said, Orange United can help SU Athletics become even more competitive in the NIL space, within the Atlantic Coast Conference and nationwide.

Ball says that leaders of SU Athletics did extensive research and had conversations with SANIL and others about becoming the ‘Cuse athletic department’s preferred collective. After engaging in those conversations and undergoing a vetting process, it was determined that SANIL was the best fit for SU Athletics.

As I noted in an article that ran on Tuesday, SANIL operates more than two-dozen commercial collectives nationwide and has more than 1,000 student-athletes under retainer contract. In the ACC, SANIL runs commercial collectives at schools such as Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

Orange United is not part of SU Athletics. Therefore, officials at SU Athletics won’t have a say in what Orange United does as far as NIL deals with ‘Cuse student-athletes. Orange United has an impressive board of directors and a general manager, Syracuse Crunch executive Mark Hayes, in place to make those kinds of decisions.

Ball, however, did say that officials with SU Athletics will meet with the leadership team at Orange United to outline SU’s priorities.

Two 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, the 315 Foundation and Athletes Who Care, have been operating to support Syracuse Orange student-athletes. However, the future status of non-profit collectives, generally speaking, remains up in the air, after the Internal Revenue Service issued a memo in early June stating that donations made to non-profit NIL collectives aren’t tax-exempt.

Athletes Who Care has secured 501(c)(3) charitable status from the IRS, and its efforts are more philanthropic in nature, Ball says, adding that SU Athletics is in conversations with the 315 Foundation to see what that organization is likely to do moving forward.

While Athletes Who Care and the 315 Foundation have helped out in the NIL space, Syracuse hasn’t had a “big player,” Ball acknowledges.

That’s where Orange United is expected to come in, and as Ball said, this is a huge development for SU Athletics amid the growing NIL landscape.

To that end, when SU Athletics put out a press release about the launch of Orange United on Tuesday morning, just after my piece ran on Inside The Loud House, Syracuse Orange athletic director John Wildhack said in part, “Today signifies an important milestone in advancing our NIL efforts to benefit all student-athletes across our 20 sports.”

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